Any time a team wins a game without an RBI, as the Orioles did in Thursday night's 3-2 win over Detroit, a lot of things have to go right.
Or, in the case of the Tigers, wrong. Very wrong.
In this instance it was a balk called on left-hander David Wells that produced the winning run. But there was an even more significant play three innings earlier that had as much -- or more -- bearing on the outcome and went almost unnoticed.
Obviously we're not talking about Cecil Fielder's error on Rafael Palmeiro's erratically bouncing ground ball that produced the Orioles' first two runs. That miscue was the focal point of every post-game summation.
It was the play immediately before that one that put the Orioles in position to tie, and ultimately win, the game. And, once again, it brought into question the value of the so-called "waste pitch."
That Brady Anderson and Kevin Bass were able to execute a double-steal with ridiculous ease was testimony enough that Wells lost his concentration on the runners. Had Wells merely kept Bass in check at first base, which as a left-hander he should've been able to do easily, he might've gotten out of the inning.
The same also could've been true if he had gone right after Palmeiro, who had an 0-and-2 count at the time.
The only reason the Orioles were willing to risk a double steal in that situation was the fact that Palmeiro was down in the count and facing the traditional "don't give him anything to hit" pitch.
Combined with Wells' indifference toward the base runners, the pitch, which wasn't close to the strike zone, left catcher John Flaherty no choice other than returning the ball to the pitcher. Palmeiro then hit the grounder that handcuffed Fielder.
There are no guarantees, but if Wells had made that same pitch when the count was 0-and-2 he might've gone to the bench with a 2-0 lead. A second guess? Certainly.
But there is a point to be made here. As former Orioles pitching coach George Bamberger preached, a purpose pitch and a waste pitch are not the same.
"With a purpose pitch, you're trying to get the guy out," Bamberger would say. Left unsaid was the obvious. A waste pitch is just that -- a waste of time and effort.
Wells most likely was distracted by the two-out walks to Anderson and Bass, which is understandable for someone whose control is as good as his. Which was all the more reason to use his upper hand and go after Palmeiro, who is not a wild swinger likely to go chasing a bad pitch.
In this case, the only thing that was wasted was an otherwise splendid pitching performance by Wells.